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Pet owners jittery after widespread food recall
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By Sandra Pedicini

March 19, 2007

Judy Morris' cat Kobe virtually never gets sick, but Sunday morning he
threw up.

Morris wanted answers, but by Sunday afternoon all she had was a refund
on about 20 pouches of cat food that were part of a massive nationwide
recall.

"I'm real concerned what the long-term effects are," said Morris,
taking her cat-food pouches back to a Petco store near downtown Orlando. Two
shelves there were almost bare because employees had removed the
affected food.

Menu Foods of Ontario, Canada, has recalled dog food sold throughout
North America under 48 brands and cat food sold under 40 brands,
including Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba.

Major retailers such as Wal-Mart and pet stores including Petsmart and
Petland carried the affected pet food. Menu Foods said an unknown
number of cats and dogs had suffered kidney failure and at least 10 died
after eating the food.

The recall covers the company's "cuts and gravy" style food, which
consists of chunks of meat in gravy, sold in cans and small foil pouches
from Dec. 3 to March 6 throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Two other companies -- Nestle Purina PetCare Co. and Hill's Pet
Nutrition Inc. -- said Saturday that as a precaution they had decided to
voluntarily recall some products made by Menu Foods.

Some people had a tough time getting information from the toll-free
numbers Menu Foods provided to give recall details. "It's just solid
busy," said Morris, who on Sunday returned Iams Select Bites with tuna in
sauce and Nutro Natural Choice. The two products, both weight-control
formulas, showed up on Menu Foods' recall lists.

Pet owners had better luck with a Menu Foods Web site,
menufoods.com/recall.

Janet Olson of Orlando checked online Sunday morning to make sure the
Science Diet product she feeds her 4-year-old Siamese cat, Aspen, was
safe. She didn't find it on the recall list, to her relief.

"It's very scary," she said. "It's quite a lot of different brands
being affected."

Other worried pet owners called an animal poison-control center
affiliated with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"We certainly have got some interest in it," said Dr. Steven Hansen,
veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president with ASPCA.

Hansen said pet owners should look out for loss of appetite,
listlessness, vomiting, diarrhea or unusual thirst in pets that have eaten the
affected food.

Petland in MetroWest removed about a quarter of its food stock from the
shelves, and cashiers have told customers about the recall -- "even if
they're buying fish," store manager Angela Eckstein said. "We're asking
them if they've got dogs or cats at home."

And those cashiers have been getting "a lot of surprised looks,"
Eckstein said. "A lot of people just don't know about it."

After talking with her friends about the recall at lunch, Barbara
Messina of Orlando stopped at Petco to see whether the Whiskas turkey with
giblets and prime fillet she buys for her four cats had been taken off
the shelves. She didn't see it there but wondered whether Petco even
sold it. Messina decided to check at the Petsmart where she had originally
bought her food. Whiskas was not among the affected brands.

Because dogs and cats can't tell if something tastes funny, "you really
do trust the pet-food companies" to deliver a safe product, Messina
said. "Dogs, their favorite food is garbage."

Menu Foods' chief executive and president, Paul Henderson, told The
Associated Press on Friday that the company was still trying to determine
what had happened.

He said Menu Foods had received an undisclosed number of owner
complaints that dogs and cats were vomiting and suffering kidney failure after
eating its products.

He estimated that the recall would cost the company, which is mostly
owned by the Menu Foods Income Fund, an estimated $26 million to $34
million.

Sarah Tuite, a company spokeswoman, has said the recalled products were
made using wheat gluten purchased from a new supplier, which has since
been dropped for another source. Wheat gluten is a source of protein.

Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Julie Zawisza said it is too
early to determine what could have affected the food. Zawisza added that
even if wheat gluten is the source "it doesn't necessarily mean the
wheat gluten, per se. It could be another substance associated with the
wheat gluten."

The company said it makes pet food for 17 of the top 20 North American
retailers, including Publix and Winn-Dixie. It is also a contract
manufacturer for the top branded pet food companies, including Procter &
Gamble Co.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. Sandra
Pedicini can be reached at [email protected] or
407-322-7669.



Copyright (c) 2007, Orlando Sentinel
 
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